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February 20, 2009 |  10 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

NATO's New Public Diplomacy: The Art of Engaging and Influencing

Stefanie Babst: If governments are to deal effectively with the key foreign policy challenges of our age, they must engage in a new form of public diplomacy: one that combines understanding a given challenge with the ability to mobilize networks and public support to bring about concrete change.

The proliferation of new international actors, including NGOs and corporations, and the arrival of global digital and real-time technologies have blurred the lines between domestic and international news spheres. Today's audiences are no longer simply passive news recipients. The top-down communication patterns of the Cold War era are increasingly being replaced by people-to-people and peer-to-peer relationships and networks.

Globalization affects the way we communicate with each other, and presents a challenge for every political leadership. Indeed some governments find it difficult to accept that "shouting out" core messages, ever louder, in the false belief that they will eventually be heard, is no longer a recipe for mobilizing and sustaining public and political support. Instead, if they want to succeed, today's politicians need to find out what motivates people and seek to identify possible common interests. They need to involve networks and groups in their own thinking and policy planning. They need to persuade and influence.

These are some of the key principles that should govern our thinking on a new public diplomacy approach:

1. Public diplomacy is about listening. Contrary to what some may think, successful public diplomacy does not begin with talking, but with listening.

2. Public diplomacy must be connected to policy. There is no substitute for a sound policy. What counts is not what you say, but what you do. That is why public diplomacy cannot and should not attempt to portray a serious crisis or war in rosy colours. You can never communicate a problem away.

3. Public diplomacy must be credible to be effective. What applies to dealings with the media should apply to all public partners: if you try to manipulate or lie, you will immediately lose credibility.

4. Public Diplomacy is not always about you. Sometimes the most effective public diplomacy will be conducted under the media spotlights, but at other times, policy issues are better communicated by third parties, such as think tanks and academics, than through official statements. Facilitating and supporting discussions among political networks or groups of foreign policy professionals can be an excellent public diplomacy strategy if the aim is to introduce and bring to the public attention a specific policy issue. NATO, for instance, puts a lot of efforts into cultivating networks and supporting discussions among security and foreign policy experts.

5. Public Diplomacy needs to respond to the challenges of the Web 2.0 world. Offering information about your policies and audiovisuals of all sorts online is certainly a useful thing to do, in particular because the number of online consumers has risen exponentially in the western world. In the less developed world, however, radio, print media and TV outlets still dominate the information environment. Simply posting a video on YouTube does not do the trick, either. Your news or footage can easily be used and manipulated by others. You need to continue engaging with online chatters and carefully select your target and digital means. If used smartly, however, the new media technologies can do a lot to support your public diplomacy operations.

At NATO, we have overhauled our technological capabilities, aimed at bringing the NATO website and other audiovisual tools and products up to a par. We are trying hard to make NATO's interface with the outside world as interactive as possible, by hosting lectures, videos and discussions online. Since April last year, a TV channel has been complementing our digital information offer on the internet.

This is all good - but not good enough. NATO should be more courageous in using digital tools to directly interact with the public. Why not host a permanent blog on the NATO website? Why not widen the debate about NATO's new Strategic Concept beyond the ‘usual suspects' and try to obtain new thinking through, for instance, online discussions with citizens on specific aspects of NATO's future role?

Let us hope that when Allies discuss NATO's future strategic course at the forthcoming Summit in Strasbourg and Kehl, they will also take a moment to sign up to a 21st century public diplomacy approach.

Dr. Stefanie Babst is the NATO Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy Strategy.

This is a shortened version of Dr. Babst's speech at the NATO Partnership for Peace Symposium on January 22, 2009.

Download a PDF with the full text of her speech below.

 
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Tags: | NATO | public diplomacy | Afghanistan | Babst |
 
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Unregistered User

February 23, 2009

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I noticed that NATO is now putting more material on the internet, but I don't see any interactive elements.

If for instance http://natochannel.tv/ were interactive, then it would allow comments and NATO officials would respond to comments.

There is not a comment function on the NATO homepage either. Netizens cannot enter a transparent dialogue with NATO officials.
Well, the White House homepage does not allow comments either. It seems that President Obama is different from the candidate Obama
Tags: | reality check |
 
Marek  Swierczynski

February 23, 2009

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Please remember that NATO is an organization of national states and acts in area where national states - not international bodies - have a primary role. In other words NATO does not have its own will - it executes what the members-states agree for. It would be a bit dangerous if NATO led its own public diplomacy, because sooner or later it would lead to creating NATO's own policy - and that would be unacceptable, because the legal framework of NATO does not allow for that. Of course, NATO needs a boost in public communication, promotion, a kind of positive marketing, but whether it amounts to public diplomacy, I have serious doubts.
 
E. Ben Heine

February 24, 2009

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Marek,

Thanks for your comment, However, I think there is no real semantic difference between public diplomacy and public communication / positive marketing — both refers to informing the public about policy and the reasoning behind it. Also, I am not sure how this would lead to NATO creating policy independent of the consensus of its member states? Would a greater public diplomacy initiative, utilizing Web 2.0 means of communication, not also lead to greater transparency of NATO decision-making processes, that are otherwise poorly understood by the public in the member states?
 
Marek  Swierczynski

February 24, 2009

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Ben
The question is who is on the receiving end of NATO's public diplomacy campaign.
Internally, I would rather see each government of a NATO member-state to take on the public communication and public diplomacy in respect to the Alliance's dealings. This would cement the member-states public with NATO values and policies. Modern technologies should be applied, as in any other area of national politics, communication and governance.
If a debate on the role of the Alliance, the impact of its actions and missions it undertakes is transferred above the national government level, then the legitimacy of that government is undermined. NATO should encourage national governments to arrange for such debates if needed, but a direct action towards the citizens of NATO member-states is a step too far in the current, traditional legal framework of the Alliance.
Externally, there is a greater role for NATO's own public diplomacy and information policy, but ONLY about what NATO does to fulfill its mandate, agreed by the member-states. There's no doubt that NATO needs a boost in perception, especially in areas outside the mandate territory, and that it fails in media war with the enemy. Pictures of beheadings are all over the news channels, images of NATO vehicles destroyed by IED's dominate the frontpages - but who's seen any image of ISAF success recently? Of course it's partly the nature of media, but also a lack of communication strategy by NATO. The online tv channel is a good thing, but it's a small-scale operation. Yes, it's costly to lead a media war, but it's an investment NATO needs desperately.
 
Lior  Petek

February 24, 2009

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I think a key principle is missing in Babst's five-point list and this is the analysis of the public diplomacy (or call it propganda) of the enemy (whether it is Russia or Islamist regimes, actors and media). This strategic intelligence is indispensable when it comes to persuading and influencing the (same) target audience.
 
Donald  Stadler

February 24, 2009

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Marek, I am not sure I grasp what you re advocating, but reading what Dr. Babst wrote I find it difficult to find anything I findamentally disagree with.

It seems to me that the breakdown NATO experienced since 2001 (really since the fall of the Berlin Wall) rests fundamentally on a breakdown in public support in the allied countries. The first signs of the break showed during the Kosovo war in most of the continental NATO countries, which failed to participate in the war with any vigor but who were most critical of what was being done in NATO's name by the fighting countries.

That was obvious enough but nothing was done to rectify the probems show then, so we then proceeded to 9/11 when things came apart almost completely, and the problem of lack of public support metasticized to the entire alliance - not excluding the US, Canada, and the UK.

If NATO is to have any chance to remain anything but the shell of an alliance, major steps must be taken to both inform the people of the member states what the issues are and what their countries must be able to contribute to the alliance, but also to listen to the public and make it a two-way communication.

I still don't harbor much hope for NATO going forward, but perhaps a little more than I did. Formerly I thought NATO almost completely moribund - but if this is pursued I'll back off that judgement to 85% moribund.

The case for NATO must be made to the people, and the people must understand that the alliance cannot be a free ride - there are duties as well as responsibilities. Fully informed, the people may decide that what is asked is too much to pay for the benefits offered by the alliance. But at least it will be an informed decision. Too many decisions coming out of NATO seem to have been driven by uninformed populaces on both sides of the Atlantic, and that must end.
 
Marek  Swierczynski

February 25, 2009

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Don
Well, what you said is exactly the danger I fear. A two-way communication assumes listening to what you hear in feedback. As it assumes influence. Do you think that an "informed population" would have made a decission to go into Afghanistan, as their governments had? Do you think NATO-citizens would have supported keeping B-61's in european stores? Do you think they wouldn't like the Yanks get out of Europe and end the "occupation" that some contributors to this forum talk about? What then? A decomposition of the European order could follow swiftly. But maybe it wouldn't happen and the "informed populations" would quickly realise they have to bear the common defense burdens (joke...).
As to deterioration of NATO, I fully agree and I'm bringing another example in a short piece I've submitted for publication here.
 
Unregistered User

February 26, 2009

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This article is the abstract of Dr. Stefanie Babst's address titled "Public diplomacy - the art of engaging and influencing", delivered at a NATO symposium. It conveys basic message: that public diplomacy is about listening; staying connected to policy not only by saying but also by action; being credible and effective in doing that; recognizing the importance of a third party's contribution as that which could spur excellence in public diplomacy outcome; and straying fully aware of the information-age significance in getting things rolling. NATO is a bureaucratic military organization in which the interest of member states is primary, parallel to engagement which might be described as external in-view-of its services and interactions with NGOs and the UN.

The article itself is re-framed and titled "Nato's new public diplomacy - the art of engaging and influencing". In this clever approach Nato is implicitly on sale in terms of what-more-to-do in a none reappraised but full recognition of its history, accumulated experiences and no-less the burdens also. With 'public diplomacy' articulated object for tactical and fundamental rethinking the "new" begs a beginning, asking to humbly see the sense arguments that all - though can never be right] has not been well with it as a military bureaucratic organization serving the interest of member states parallel to other interests.

The essence here is our world has become more globalized, complex and choked by newer threats, for example, the environmental added to others well know to all: violent conflicts here and there fearfully on the increase. These are neither scenarios nor hypothetical estimates of risks, but real and hunted by globalization. Dr. Babst's "implicit" admonishment - one could say a kind of appeal that public diplomacy should be listening is invariably no less worth taking seriously at the levels: Nato's hierarchy and member states. The significance of the remaining four point suggestive and mending steps adapt stepwise thus to the first.

At the national state alias said member states' level, what both government and military interests are likely to least examine seriously is the link between what public diplomacy in the Nato membership-terms actually incorporates, thinking of the political support-base. What does grass-root politics cum political participation and or democracy informed by political rights and civil liberties really mean for how a public diplomacy thus theoretically invented would have to eventually be made fruitful: again in Dr. Babst's implicit meaning "credible" and "effective"? Military technocracy might be a stage of competence worth getting hold of, yet are there no challenges for member state and world citizens courting rethinking? it has to be asked!

In these senses, the comments seen below, especially those by Swierczynski, Heine and Stadler, and phases of their dialogues and responses are also revealing. Important points in these tend to focus arguments such as: (i) Nato as a national state organ acts on the basis of consensus, sometimes lacking - a situation reminding of, for example, Kosovo, Iraq and even Afghanistan; and (ii) on the face-value the rather attractive argument that Nato as a military organ in contemporary world sounds completely moribund.

The latter leaves one wondering if any strategic exploitation of the internet communication media would do anything substantial in short and long-runs! The world we live in has changed dramatically and it would appear that policy-makers everywhere simply must have to see and re-evaluate their values, methods and strategies. It is here to be candid, that the new United States, many hope is poised to open the way for the world, with bold pragmatic and flexible policies, humble but active and dynamic enough for the type of results the world is waiting impatiently to see - a world of soft and careful politics and diplomacy likely to bath everyone in peace and sharing progress instead of meaningless conflicts and recalcitrant political values breeding hate and divisions among states and peoples. Interestingly here there is also a talk about Nato's legal framework vis-a-vis what are acceptable and or not acceptable. What will "listening and new" public diplomacy as criteria of greater success mean contextually?

Europe has played host to two terrible wars alongside minor but equally terrible ones also. Is peace not what should be worked for? If so why not be bold to redefine strategies asking and finding answers to such an important question if not for worries about what is known about dangers of wars and now in an hopeless nuclear-age], for the sheer love of a peaceful coexistence and sharing progress.

On this basis many will join to truly salute Dr, Babst for the statement in her address at the symposium: that public diplomacy is a serious political instrument and means providing the necessary financial resources. The latter is well tied to advantages of the internet and media technology - only if not misused! The call to invest in public diplomacy hence get it rolling is good, but to succeed with that in the age we are in, it is worth expanding the scope, which in addition to helping foster discourses advancing human civilization inclusively across military institutions, also will boldly stand the test of shedding light on political, economic, environmental and cultural issues, no less as functions of good morals, self-discipline and moderation. About these it is possible to sense the opening provided by Babst's Nato address even for the United Nations as a key player, especially for the purpose of world peace and the idea of "shared" progress and prosperity.



 
Unregistered User

May 22, 2009

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One element of public diplomacy that is rarely discussed is "advocacy". In other words, public diplomacy is a generic means of referring to a nation-state's or intergovernmental organization's public communications. These communications range from - monologues (information out), to dialogues (two-way discussions), and to collaborations (where the external publics are invited to participate in decision-making). In the normal course of events, governments employ all three forms of communication to support their national interests. I elucidate these concepts in my new book, Branding Canada: Projecting Canada's Soft Power through Public Diplomacy..
Tags: | nation branding |
 
Unregistered User

January 15, 2010

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Affiliate Marketing is a performance based sales technique used by companies to expand their reach into the internet at low costs. This commission based program allows affiliate marketers to place ads on their websites or other advertising efforts such as email distribution in exchange for payment of a small commission when a sale results.
on line marketing
 

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